If there is one set of myths that has stood the test of time, it is the Greek set. They pervade every aspect of Western society to date and here I will share what I believe are 5 of the best Greek myths of all time.
5. The 12 Labours of Heracles
It was said that Zeus’ wife, Hera, hated his son with the Mycenae princess Alcmene so much, that she made Heracles (Hercules) lose his mind – which in turn led to him slaughtering his family. When he awoke from his madness he prayed to the God Apollo, whose oracle told Heracles to serve King Eurystheus for 12 years.
The king told Heracles that he had to perform 10 labours for him, although he ended up tricking Heracles into performing 12. These labours included the slaying of the nine-headed Hydra, obtaining the girdle of the Queen of the Amazons, and descending into Tartarus to capture Cerberus. Heracles passes all of his tasks and goes on to become the great hero that we all know and love.
4.The Story of Hades and Persephone
The God of the Underworld, Hades, falls in love with the daughter of Zeus and Demeter, Persephone, and decided to snatch her away to his kingdom. Fiercely angry at this, Demeter refused to make crops grow and plunged the Earth into perpetual winter. The Gods knew they had to appease Demeter by convincing Hades to release Persephone, however he tricked her into eating a pomegranate seed which meant that she could never leave the Underworld.
In the end a compromise was reached that meant that Persephone would spend one half of the year with her mother and the other half with Hades. When Persephone is in the Underworld, Demeter makes the world become barren and cold until her daughter’s return in the Spring.
3. The Minotaur
King Minos prayed to Poseidon to be made King of Crete and asked for the God to give him a bull from the sea which he would sacrifice to him. Upon receiving the magnificent bull, Minos decided to keep it in his stables instead.
Angry Poseidon took revenge by making Minos’ wife copulate with the bull which produced the Minotaur. After his defeat of Athens, Minos demanded they send tributes every 9 years to be chucked into the maze and left to be slaughtered by the Minotaur. Eventually Theseus slew the Minotaur, thus ending the horrific nightmare.
2. The Story of Prometheus
In Greek mythology the Titan Prometheus created man from clay, at the command of Zeus. He was spared Tartarus with the other Titans because he had not taken up arms against the Olympians. In time Prometheus grew to love mankind more than the Olympians and when Zeus demanded to be given a large portion of meat from sacrificed animals, Prometheus decided to trick him into accepting bones which led to Zeus taking fire away from man.
The angry Titan stole fire from the sun and took it back down to Earth. As punishment Zeus had him chained to a rock where an eagle repeatedly tore out his liver. He was eventually freed by Chiron the Centaur agreeing to sacrifice his life for him and Heracles killing the eagle and breaking Prometheus’ chains.
1. Perseus and Medusa
Possibly the best known, loved and retold Greek myth of all time, the story of Perseus and Medusa fascinates young and old alike. King Polydectes wishes to marry Perseus’ mother and therefore sends Perseus off to fetch him the head of Medusa by pretending he wants it as a wedding gift for a different bride. He is helped by various Gods and creatures on his quest.
Perseus famously looked into his shield to see Medusa so that he would not be turned to stone when he slew her. Popping her into his bag he headed back home and presented King Polydectes with the head, who instantly turned to stone.
I’d love to hear from you about your favourite Greek myths, so why not pop a comment below?